Start a pet cemetery business by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your pet cemetery business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a pet cemetery business?
Owners will need to secure land, licenses, and staff to operate their cemetery. Every city and state will have their own permits and local ordinances, so owners will have to check into their area's particular rules. Owners should do research into the cost of raw land in the general location they want to build their cemetery.
What are the ongoing expenses for a pet cemetery business?
Pet cemetery owners who do well will likely want to acquire additional land in order to accommodate the demand. They’ll also need to keep up with yearly licensing requirements, as well as staff, supplies, and marketing costs.
Who is the target market?
Theoretically, the market is for anyone who’s lost a pet. Business owners can offer a wide range of services at varying prices, so no pet owner will have to worry about their pet's eternal resting place. However, most people who visit a pet cemetery will have some degree of disposable income before considering the additional expenses.
How does a pet cemetery business make money?
Pet cemeteries charge a certain amount for each service or they offer popular packages to grieving owners. This can including anything from supplying flowers for the funeral to cremating the animal. Owners will charge clients more than the raw costs for each service in order to turn a profit.
How much can you charge customers?
A casket and a plot of land can run a customer up to $1,100, depending on the size of their pet. It costs about $135 to cremate a large dog (80+ pounds), or about $85 for a normal-sized dog. Personalized headstones can be anywhere from $30 to $80. Pet cemeteries should check into what similar services cost in their area before they set their prices. The more affluent areas may not bat an eyelash at a $500 plot, but a more blue-collar area may not have that type of spare income.
How much profit can a pet cemetery business make?
The cemetery business often gets a bad reputation because they take advantage of people during a difficult time, but the net profit margin is under 12%. This means if your sales are $250,000 for the year, you'll likely have around $30,000 to reinvest in the business.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Pet cemeteries can consider adding a crematorium to their business if they feel it’s a necessary service in their area.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your pet cemetery business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a pet cemetery business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A pet cemetery business is generally run out of a plot of land. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a pet cemetery business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your pet cemetery business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a pet cemetery business
The best way to promote a pet cemetery business is to develop relationships with the many animal professionals in the community. Most people who lose a pet will ask their vets for advice about what to do with the body. Just because a vet has been recommending a different pet cemetery doesn’t mean they aren’t open to a different business that can offer their clients more. In addition, owners can do both traditional (print, TV, radio, etc.) or online marketing to promote their business.
Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.
How to keep customers coming back
Hopefully people won’t need to use a pet cemetery very often, but it’s not unusual for an owner to bury a few pets throughout their lifetime. Owners need to be patient and understanding to each and every client they work with.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Pet Cemetery Business In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Pet owner cemeteries should have an inherent love for animals. It helps them to understand exactly what a grieving individual or family is going through, which is pivotal to developing a good rapport and attracting new clients. Owners should also be comfortable with the concept of death and feel natural dealing with both the practical and emotional consequences of losing a pet.
What happens during a typical day at a pet cemetery business?
Much of an owner’s day will usually be spent managing the grounds and talking to clients. Their activities may include any of the following:
- Preparing plots
- Communicating with customers
- Maintaining the grounds
- Performing administrative tasks
- Performing formal burials
- Managing the crematorium
- Talking to vets or pet stores
- General advertising/marketing
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful pet cemetery business?
Having some type of experience in a cemetery will be extremely helpful, whether it’s as a manager of a funeral parlor or as a gravedigger. These experiences give you a chance to witness the inside business behind death, which can make it easier to disassociate from it when necessary. Many of the business principles of a traditional death service can translate to a pet cemetery business. An MBA can also help owners deal with general time-management, financial, or expansion dilemmas while on the job.
What is the growth potential for a pet cemetery business?
Pet cemeteries are in many ways a luxury service, which will generally translates into the industry rising and falling with the state of the economy. Still, there are plenty of people out there who received priceless love and affection from their pets, which ultimately translates into a generous base market to get started.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a pet cemetery business?
Those who seek out a pet cemetery are usually the same people who spend thousands of dollars on veterinary bills. They buy health insurance for their pet, and a pet-store's worth of toys and gadgets throughout their pet's lifetime. They join multiple social media groups to discuss their pets and they post photos of themselves with their beloved companions on a regular basis. Cemetery owners will want to advertise in both local locations to generate the publicity they need to grow their business.
Pet cemetery owners should also concentrate on the primary purpose they serve. Ultimately, an animal-lover wants to show their companion the respect they deserve after they’ve passed away. They want a way to visit their pet and talk to them whenever they want. They may even want to pass down their love of the animal to another generation. As an owner, it's your job to show them how they can meet these goals by choosing your cemetery.
Owners who understand why an owner wishes to bury their pet in a cemetery will naturally be able to work with clients and offer them services they want. There are even ways to make mass burial graves a little less impersonal. For example, an owner might give the pet lover a biodegradable balloon to release during the cremation. Simply giving the grieving client the acknowledgment of what they’ve lost can go a long way to forging a positive presence in the community, despite the ostensible negative connotations of death.
How and when to build a team
Owners will need people to maintain the land, as well as handle administrative tasks and duties. While the entrepreneur may technically be able to handle this on their own (especially if they start off with a small plot of land), it may be difficult to keep up with the demand after a few months. Ideally, you should be building a team as soon as possible, and hiring people who have respect for both the animal kingdom and the clients.